The way of God is too hard for us, so we convince ourselves that there is another way. But often there is not. They little realised that this was the last time that Jesus would be there. And, as they were settling in, a few of them were a little disconcerted when Jesus asked them what they had been talking about on their journey.
The reason for their hesitation was because they had been arguing as to who was the greatest. This does not necessarily mean that each thought that he was, but rather that they had different opinions as to who were the most important in the group, and where each stood in order of importance. The way this is depicted is devastating.
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After what Jesus had told them there was surely only one thing they should have been discussing. That He was going to be killed. And all that they could think of was as to who of them was to be the greatest. Perhaps they believed that the rising from the dead meant that rising bodily He would come back again and establish His Kingly Rule by acts of divine power, by the spectacular.
They were, of course, both right and wrong. The idea which Jesus had conveyed was right, it was their concept of it that was wrong. But what mattered to them was not that, but what they were going to gain from it.
They were not discussing how it would benefit the world. They were discussing how it would benefit themselves. After all He had said to them in Caesarea Philippi they still thought mainly in terms of what status they could achieve. And that is at the heart of the thoughts of a large number of people in the church today. What status will we achieve? They knew that Jesus did not look at things like they did even before He said anything.
How wise we would be if we learned to bring before the Lord our desires for position and importance and were then prepared to listen to what He had to say about it. Who chooses to be last? Jesus says, My true servants do. It is interesting in passing to notice that this reminds us that as they went along, with Jesus leading the way, they regularly discussed various matters between themselves.
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They had had much to discuss. We are suddenly introduced here to a sad situation that Jesus had tried to guard against, but which was probably inevitable. The disciples were beginning to get too high an opinion of themselves. They were beginning to think in terms of their own greatness. After all, were they not the intimate servants and colleagues of the coming Messiah?
As far as they were concerned the only question now was how they stood as compared with each other. When Jesus did seize power which of them would take the most important positions and be held in the highest esteem? But this stands in stark contrast with the attitude of the One Who had come to serve and to Give His life a ransom for many Mark Philippians And He illustrates this firstly through a little child. True Messianic service, He stresses, is found in assisting the weak and lowly.
Having returned to Capernaum Jesus now has His face set towards Jerusalem, and in Mark He will lay the foundation by pointing out the fact that all must look to and respond to His Name, and the dangers inherent in not doing so. Then He will advance into Judaea, and by Mark His journey to Jerusalem is clearly well under way. He will, of course, continue to prepare His disciples for what lies ahead, but it does not mean that He will neglect seekers.
Crowds will still gather to hear Him and He will minister to them Mark And then once He reaches Jerusalem and enters in triumph Mark the opposition will become loud and clear as He refutes and puts to flight His opponents Mark to Mark But He is well aware that their rejection of Him can only mean one thing. They will determine to put Him to death Mark Analysis of It is those who cause others who believe in Jesus to sin, and He emphasises the necessity of avoiding such behaviour at whatever cost, for such people are bound for Gehenna Mark Faithfulness in marriage is a creation ordinance binding in this world and must be restored Mark First James and John, and then all the disciples, reveal that their motives concerning the Kingly Rule of God are wrong, and learn that they should be true servants like the Son of Man Who came to give His life a ransom for many Mark No one will ever eat fruit of it again Mark They try to arrest Jesus, but fail Mark In the resurrection world there is no marriage Mark People who see and respond to this enter the Kingly Rule of God Mark But their intent is clear.
He cleanses the Temple in order that it might be a house of prayer. In this next subsection Jesus reveals the things that are pleasing and displeasing to God. Causing those who believe in Him to sin displeases Him Mark ; Mark , while being true salt pleases Him Mark But it all begins here with a revelation of how weak they still were. And as we are considering these examples of His teaching to the disciples we would also note that each implies in one way or another His uniqueness.
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Some have tried to say that Jesus was but a great teacher and that it was His disciples Who exalted Him. But this, as we have already seen, and as can be seen from His teaching, is clearly untrue. In all His teaching He quietly and humbly assumed His right that men should accept His greatness and unique rights. In the release of the boy from the evil spirit He had assumed that He alone was in a state to cast it out, and had basically rebuked the father for not accepting the fact Mark In His prophecy concerning His death He has stated that He will rise again on the third day, an assumption of uniqueness and special privilege before God Mark In taking the little child in His arms He claims that to receive such a little child is to receive Him, and that to receive Him is to receive Him Who sent Him.
He thus puts Himself in an equation that no other teacher would have done Mark And that indeed all who do good things in His name as Messiah will be rewarded by God Mark Furthermore those who face judgment are those who cause children who believe in Him to stumble. Jesus is not just speaking as an important teacher here, He is confirming that response to Him in His uniqueness is paramount and crucial, and that attitude towards Him is at the very centre of things Mark In the matter of divorce He will give His verdict categorically, sweeping to one side the verdicts of the great Rabbis Mark When the little children are prevented from coming to Him, He points out their right to come to Him because they are under the Kingly Rule of God Mark When the young man seeks eternal life Mark his way to life is by ridding himself of his riches and following Jesus Mark And all men who do the same will receive eternal life Mark In the approach of John and James the whole basis of their plea is that Jesus will be enthroned as the Messiah, even though they see it from their own point of view.
And He accepts that it will be so Mark Whereas other teachers pointed men to God, Jesus, while He did most specifically point them to God, also pointed them to Himself on similar terms. To suggest then that Jesus was only presenting Himself as a godly teacher is just not true. He unquestionably saw Himself as the centre, along with God, of His own teaching. Mark And the example of one who is not with them but is for them is compared with the example of one who is not with them and therefore is not for them.
Jesus now gives a number of illustrations of what it means to act in His Name as the Messiah. In all cases it has nothing to do with seeking greatness, but with seeking to serve in genuineness and lowliness. And this last is so awful that desperate efforts must be made in order to avoid it Mark The words of the few clearly disturbed Him.
Then He explained what true greatness consisted of. It consisted of taking the lower place, indeed seeking the last place. It consisted in serving others see Mark ; Matthew ; Matthew It consisted in counting others better than themselves Philippians But the point, of course, was that such an attitude had to be genuine. The truly great man does not make a show of being humble, he is humble because he knows the truth about himself. It is so often only outward show.
Nothing is worse than ostentation. And in Matthew that had led on to similar sayings to those that follow in Mark Some argue that the connection between this verse and the last is obscure.
But it is not really so. Jesus was adept at dealing with questions by unusual methods to bring home the truth. He had made His statement about what true greatness consisted of and now he looked around for a way of illustrating it. A few words about greatness could pass by unnoticed but an apt illustration would speak volumes. Not one of the disciples who had been speaking of greatness had thought in terms of thereby helping little children. Indeed when at another time certain mothers sought to bring their children to Jesus the disciples would try to turn them away.
They did not have the heart of a shepherd. They thought that Jesus had more important things to deal with!
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All their thoughts were on their own importance. For each little child represents an opportunity to serve Jesus. To receive them is to receive Jesus. And not one of the disciples would have argued about the importance of properly receiving Jesus. The Old Testament constantly laid stress on the importance of teaching little children. This was the duty of every Israelite and Jew. But so often it got overlooked because men were too busy. So Jesus did not argue about who would be the greatest. He sought to stress what was truly great. They cast out evil spirits with no thought of preferment Mark They gave cups of cold water to those who followed the Messiah Mark So He took up a little child and spoke about him.
Many would consider a little child unimportant in the order of things, said Jesus, but if someone receives that child in the name of Christ, He is receiving Christ, and not only is he receiving Christ but he is also receiving the One Who sent Him. He is doing a great thing. He is dealing with what is really important without regard for his own position or how men see him.
That is the true measure of greatness. It is such a man who is truly great. The principle would appear to be twofold. Firstly that what seems unimportant to men is extremely important to God, especially the care of believing children for whom He has special concern Mark Every child offers an opportunity of receiving Christ and receiving God, because they offer an opportunity of humble service in His name.
Furthermore the right teaching of these little children will be the safeguard of the future. So the truly great will not be too important to receive them and give them time. And secondly that the smallest thing done for Christ and for love of Him is extremely important see Mark , and compare Mark , while larger things, if not genuinely done for Him, lose their importance.
For the truth is that what men consider important, and see as contributing to their own importance, is often not very important at all in the final scheme of things. Indeed those who seek importance often merely demonstrate that they are unimportant. What matters is carefully bringing them up to know the truth. Very often this is left to mothers. How important mothers are in the scheme of things 1 Timothy We almost take it for granted, but this is the very foundation of the Kingly Rule of God.
The idea that lies behind Mark is the Jewish shaliach agent, representative.
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And that to receive Him was to receive the Father, a further stress on His unique status.